Wednesday, December 23, 2015

After almost 30 years…thoughts on gear.

I wrote my first published article in 1987 for the Ohio Tactical Officer’s Newsletter.  My first nationally published article came in the spring of 1988 for COMBAT HANDGUNS Magazine. People ask me regularly how to get started in gun writing…truth be told, I have no idea! My first article was requested of me by COMBAT HANDGUNS Editor Harry Kane due to a conversation he had with Smith & Wesson PR Director Sherry Collins.

Sherry mentioned to Harry that S&W had built 13 custom 5906 pistols prior to the release of the Third Generation series for a SWAT Team in Ohio.  I was a member of that team and a “cold call” by Harry to my agency resulted in that article.  My second article was in SWAT Magazine on the Steyr AUG-P 5.56, also a gun our team was using. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since that time I have written over 1,500 articles and columns on a wide range of firearms topics, focusing on law enforcement, military and personal security subject matter.  At one time, I had three columns going at once “Plainclothes” in GUNS AND WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, “Firearms” in LAW OFFICER Magazine and “On Patrol” in HANDGUNS Magazine.  At this time I still write the “On Patrol” column but have resigned it as of the end of 2016.  Truth be told, I have nothing left to say…

Since the VAST majority of articles and columns were product reviews it is safe to say I have seen a lot of gadgets, gizmos and gewgaws…enough to last me a lifetime.  “But you haven’t seen the current generation of gear, Dave!” Really? Do you really think the stuff that is currently being introduced is truly “original”?  It might be “new” to you, but little of it is new to me.  Keep in mind, most of it is 1911 and AR-15 based and a new generation of floating hand guard does not excite me much.  It’s a metal tube, so what? A new optic? Looks a lot like the same stuff we had years back. Maybe more reliable but still a red dot.  I saw my first Kydex holster in the late 1970’s as made by Bill Rogers of the Rogers Holster Company, now part of Safariland. It was good stuff then and would still be considered cutting edge.  I wish they would bring it back in its original form.  Ammo? Yes, we have the BEST combative grade ammo of all time, but it is still a hollow point and the truth be told, Winchester Silvertip was pretty damn good regardless of what the FBI claimed. I would carry it today with no concern beyond my wanting to hit what I am shooting at.

That said gear in all of its forms is the best yet.  These days I no longer get the “gun writer handouts” as I did in the past. I now pay for my gear, so like most of you I want to spend my money wisely. What I thought I would do in this blog is lay out some stuff that has worked for me, not just recently, but over many, many years…sometimes decades! No, it may not be the “cutting edge” but I have found I seldom what to be the first person to use new gear. I want to see the stuff that as been proven time and again in the field and on the street.

Please keep in mind I also may not be “up” on every new piece of kit out there and some is just too damn expensive for what my “real world of work” is. For example, you will not see me mention Arcteryk as I see no need to spend $500 on a jacket when other brands work just fine for me. With that in mind, here is some of my choices after many years of use…

Glock Pistols. I resisted the plastic gun for many years…after all, guns are made from steel and have a hammer.  I’m glad I finally realized my error.  They are tough, simple and work in all weather conditions. I have to modify the grip, but I will admit the 4th Generation is a step in the right direction.  Now that S&W has shot themselves in the foot with their letter to custom gunsmiths, I’m sure the demand for Glock will just grow.  Custom modification to a carry gun is as American as Apple Pie, but S&W does not seem to get this.  Remember S&W was the company that signed the agreement letter with the Clinton Administration…

Ruger Revolvers. While Smith & Wesson was once THE revolver of American Law Enforcement, I found Ruger to be more robust with better trigger actions. Customer service was superior, too! The Speed, Service and Security Six revolvers were similar in size to the Model 19 while the GP-100 was their answer to the L Frame. Currently, the LCR snubby is the class of the field with a smooth trigger, useable sights and a grip that is not too big or too small and comes in multiple calibers.  Ruger will also NOT go after custom gunsmiths…

Remington rifles and shotguns. A caveat here…this was the long guns of the past. At one time the Remington 870 and 700 were the class of the field, but current generation guns are not what they once were. Too bad…if you can find an older 870 in a pawn shop or traded in to a law enforcement dealer, check to see if it is in good shape and buy it. Many police trade in’s are rough on the outside, but great on the inside as they are carried and abused, but shot little.  I had an early 1187 in the 1990’s that I wish I would have kept…it was smooth shooting and as reliable as a manual typewriter.

Milt Sparks holsters. The original Summer Special, as designed by Bruce Nelson, is still the IWB rig that all others are measured by.  The quality of Spark leather (under the watchful eye of Tony Kanaly) remains high and in demand…just try and order one!

Alessi Leather.  Lou Alessi was a friend and his concealment rigs were second to none! At the risk of sounding arrogant, his popular CQC and CQC-S rigs were my idea, a claim that can be verified by Mike Boyle and Rich Grassi who were there when the holsters were “born”.  We were in his shop during the 1997 ASLET Training Conference in Buffalo as I started telling Lou what I felt was wrong with his belt rig. Lou looks at me and says, “OK asshole, (this was in fun BTW) what do you feel would be the perfect holster?!”  I commenced to tell him. As I talked, he began to ask questions and saw the potential in what I was saying. Make no mistake, these were Lou’s designs, I just helped him in the right direction!  Alessi Leather still exists, but I feel his former partner Skip Ritchie (Ritchie Leather) is where you will get Lou’s original designs. Skip operates out of the original Alessi shop using Lou’s actual dies.  Skip is continuing the legend.

Under Armour.  While there is certainly more expensive and more “tactical” oriented clothing, Under Amour works! Worn by scholastic, collegiate and professional athletes, sportsmen, military units and just everyday Joes, Under Armour has gown from layering garments to a clothing line. I got my fist UA shirt while a member of the now gone Heckler and Koch International Training Division and was instantly taken by the garment. I still have it as a matter of fact! Since that time, I have purchased Cold Gear, Hot Gear, shirts, pants, shorts, fleece, jackets…you name it and it has always worked as advertised.  No, its not the current “in, cool guy, Ninja” tactical gear but I don’t care. Never give up a known for an unknown, especially when spending your own money.

Spyderco and Kershaw Knives. Both companies make well designed and built blades at a reasonable price. They have both high and low end knives in folding and fixed configurations. If you leave one of these knives behind (or in!) you don’t feel like you left your wallet as well.  I have carried both brands over the years and have never been disappointed in the quality for the money.

Surefire. Nope, not the least expensive gear on the planet, but it is well designed and manufactured and they stand behind everything they make.  If you ever get the chance to tour their facility you will get an idea of how meticulous they are in designing, building and assembling their products.  I have used their stuff for years in a variety of assignments and weather conditions. This gear is really tough…

Maxpedition. I have used A LOT of nylon gear, especially bags and such. Everything from nylon sacks to well partitioned specialty function carriers. Maxpedition just seems “to get” what folks need for a wide variety of functions. Their material is top of the line and their stitch lines are robust. I have yet to have a zipper fail, something that has happened to me with other brands. I stop by their booth at every SHOT Show and I have not found them to be the nicest people, but they make great gear.

Merrell Shoes.  I have used a wide variety of Merrells and they always seem to last. I am currently wearing the All Out Blaze Series in boots, hiking shoes and water sandals and all are exceptional. I really like Solomans, but they are too thin in the instep for me…

Aimpoint. The stuff is tough, well designed and works every time! Get one! Expensive but worth every penny…nothing more need be said…

Magpul. The same as Aimpoint…well designed, tough and sold at a reasonable price point.  While there is an endless supply of stuff to dress your “Guy Barbie”, Magpul is the fist place to look. You might not have to go any further.

Federal Ammo.  I remember when 9BP was the 9mm load to have. It was street proven in a number of shootings and is still a reasonable choice. Soon to follow was Hydra-Shok, EFMJ and HST, all of which have proven to work. Individual loads like the 147 grain Hydra-Shok 9mm, the 168 Grain Boat Tail HP .308 and the “132 Tactical” 00 Buck load were legendary in their time. HST is THE law enforcement load of choice, amassing an enviable street record in all calibers.

I could go on and on as I have seen a lot of gear. Hopefully this will help you narrow your search for those essential items of kit.  Keep in mid that advertising can be slick and lead you down the wrong path. Do your homework and choose wisely as few of us have an unlimited supply of cash…

Stay alert and Check 360 often! 


  1. I'm here at my desk at Dave's old workplace and I concur that (most) advances since the 1980's have been evolutionary rather that revolutionary. Maybe we're seeing the beginnings of the next truly forward step with the slide-mounted RDS on pistols.

    As to the S&W "cease and desist" debacle; I think someone there goofed up and now they've eaten crow and walked it back. Their Clinton-era tomfoolery was under a different regime than is now in charge. To hold that against them now would be like hating Ruger for all of the nonsense Ruger did (and wouldn't do) back in the reign of Bill Sr. Just my $.02

    Keep up the good work Dave and Merry Christmas!


  2. While it is true that S&W has back peddled, I believe the culture of the past remains. Yes, the upper echelon has changed, but many of the former players remain in place...

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